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Thomas Mc Rae
[To Thomas Mc Rae’s index]

The Latter Years  
of the Kingdom of Jerusalem

By Tomas Mc Rae, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, ©2010


[This article is featured in the Lowlands-L History presentation.]


In my previous paper I recounted how the Crusaders destroyed Moslem Jerusalem and massacred its Islamic and Jewish inhabitants. How Godfrey de Bouillon became the first king of what came to be known as The Kingdom of Outremer, his death, and the succession of his brother Baldwin I to the crown.

Saladin and Guy de Lusignan after battle of Hattin in 1187
by Said Tahsine (1904–1985) [Source: Wikimedia Commons]

Time and space preclude me detailing any but the final years of this small kingdom which existed for only 87 years. During that time European adventurers and nobles travelled to the rumoured Land of Golden Opportunity to make their for­tunes, many being slain, succumbing to disease, or enslaved before reaching their goal. Others made it to success or begging. Pil­grims resumed their journeys to The Holy City under the protection of several Knight hospitaler orders such as the Knights Templar, Knights of St John, and Teutonic Knights; that also founded hospi­tals to treat the sick and wounded.

Meanwhile important events took place within the Islamic community. A radical faction of the Shiites established two mountain fortresses and became the much feared Assassins. They murdered Moslem leaders hostile to their aims and also did contract killing for Christians and Moslems alike.

Around the same time a young Kurdish man born in what is now Iraq travelled to Egypt to enter into his uncle's service. He was a brilliant scholar but proved also to be a formidable warrior and leader; eventually becoming Sultan of Egypt. He was regarded as the epitome of chivalry as his forces steadily progressed into Outremer. This was the Great Saladin.

By now Jerusalem had been ruled by several kings, the current ruler being Baldwin IV, a 13 year old leper with a powerful count, Raymond of Tripoli, acting as regent. As Baldwin had obviously just a short time to live his sister Sybella, aged 14, was married to a Frankish knight who died within a year leaving her with a young baby.

When Baldwin reached 16 he became king in his own right proving a shrewd ruler and a doughty fighter. Nonetheless Christian rule in Jerusalem had only a few more years to run; in the interim conflict and truce alternated and intrigue ruled supreme on both sides.

The lovely Sybella was shown a portrait of a handsome young French knight Guy of Lusignan and she invited him to travel to Jerusalem. Soon they were married and, in view of the deterioration of the Leper King, Guy assumed the Regency. Gorgeous fellow he may have been but he was also dead dumb and reluctant to make firm decisions.

Baldwin became ever weaker and finally, aged 24, he succumbed to his dreadful illness. He appointed his young nephew King with Raymond of Tripoli once again as Regent. Just two more years remained for Christian Jerusalem!

The sickly young King Baldwin V died less than two years later. Raymond was tricked into leaving Jerusalem and Sybella was then crowned queen by an opposing faction. She was presented with a second crown and invited to place it on the head of her chosen king. Naturally she gave it to the much hated Guy. Angered Raymond returned to his own lands in the North.

During this chaotic period there had been a truce with Saladin but not for much longer. Let a new villain now enter the tale, one Count Reynald. who threatened the truce when he raided a large Moslem caravan, looted a fortune, and slayed many. Saladin demanded Guy force Reynald to make reparations but the rogue ignored the order knowing Guy was a weakling. Tensions rose and conflict was resumed with Saladin raising a huge army.

Guy was persuaded to send a large delegation including the Grand Masters of The Temple and St John to travel to Count Raymond’s castle at Tiberias to persuade him to return to the fold. In the interim he had entered into a non aggression pact with Saladin some of whose Mamelukes requested permission to travel across his lands without damaging them. Guy agreed and the Moslem warriors travelled through without incident. Meanwhile Guy learned of the Jerusalem delegation travelling towards him. He sent messengers to warn them to lay low for a couple of days until the Mamelukes returned to base but the delegation rode onwards.

Next morning the Count was shocked to see an exuberant Mameluke force gal­lop­ing back with Templar heads on their spears.

The previous day the Knights hospitaler had ignored Raymond’s warning, gath­er­ing other members of their Orders into their ranks and moving on to Nazareth in search of trouble. Here their scouts found the Mamelukes watering their horses behind a nearby hill.

The Grand Master of the Knights of St John urged a cautious retreat but hawkish Gerard, Grand Master of the Templars taunted his companions into conflict. He yelled to locals that there soon would be a battle close by and they should come to gather the loot.

A great massacre ensued but not of the Mamelukes. The St John’s Grand Master’s head joined others gracing Moslem spears and only three knights survived. Templar Grand Master Gerard, although wounded, was one of those. The biggest massacre of all however was soon to follow, yet again caused by the Templar leader’s gung-ho attitude.

Due to Gerard’s breaking of the Truce Raymond knew a major conflict was inevitable. He cancelled his pact with Saladin and returned to Jerusalem to pledge his loyalty to King Guy. His capable wife remained in command of their castle’s strong fortifications in the North.

A month after the Nazareth slaughter Saladin’s army captured the city of Tiberias, part of Raymond’s territory, and besieged his fortress. King Guy and his Christian leaders raised a huge army and travelled from the western coastal city of Acre to Sephoriah. Here the hawks urged an advance against the Saracens encampment near the Dead Sea. Raymond’s faction realised the dangers of any such action and urged that the army stand firm near The Pools of Goliath with its adequate water and grazing resources.

The leaders adopted this policy at midnight and retired but Gerard, Grand Master of the Templars returned and persuaded the king to march the army towards Saladin’s base. So it was that on July 3rd this great army left at dawn marching towards Tiberias over rugged, dry terrain with no water.
Saladin’s forces were aware of the advance and made their own preparations. The die was cast for a terrible end game.

By evening the army was too exhausted to continue so made camp near a two peaked rocky hill, The Horns of Hattin. The adjacent well proved to be dry so they spent a night of thirsty misery. To add to their sufferings the Saracens set fire to the surrounding scrub and dense hot smoke poured over them.

Under cover of darkness and smoke Saladin’s army surrounded Guy’s army so completely that a contemporary moslem chronicler claimed not even a cat could have broken through. Saladin attacked at dawn and the Christians fought fiercely but in vain. A terrible slaughter began. Raymond led his mounted knights against part of the surrounding human wall in an attempt to break the circle; instead it opened to let them through then closed again. Unable to re-enter those knights rode off to Tripoli.

Many were the men gored on The Horns of Hatin before the king’s army sur­ren­dered. King Guy, the villain Reynald, the Templar Grand Master and several other leaders were captured and taken to Saladin’s tent. Greeting the king graciously he had him seated beside him and offered him a goblet of rose water cooled by snow. Thus under the laws of Arab hospitality he showed the king he was safe.

Guy drank, then offered the goblet to Reynald and an infuriated Saladin dashed it from the Truce Breaker’s hands, drew his sword, and beheaded him on the spot. Had Reynald drank from the goblet he would also have been sacrosanct.

Saladin assured Guy he was safe “For a king does not kill a king” then spared all captives except the surviving knights of the Military Orders apart from the Templar Grand Master. They were beheaded on his orders by Sufi fanatics. Thus was the greatest army the kingdom had ever assembled destroyed and the claimed Holy Cross of Christ that had accompanied it taken by the Moslems. Thus the great fighting force of the Templars was destroyed never to recover. The prisoners were taken to Damascus to be ransomed or enslaved. … Saladin was Lord of the Moslem World.

Next day Raymond’s wife surrendered their fortress to Saladin who treated her with honour, allowing her and her household to go to Tripoli. By 10th July Acre had fallen without slaughter of its citizens. By 20th of September Jerusalem stood besieged. The final chapter began.

Bloody fighting raged around the city walls until a surrender was negotiated and on October 2nd Saladin entered Jerusalem. In contrast with the Christian Crusaders who had waded through blood and slaughter 88 years before there was neither looting nor killing but a ransom was demanded from all inhabitants. Efforts were made to raise funds to free everybody but some of the poorer inhabitants were enslaved.

Here I must mention the disgusting conduct of the Roman Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem who paid the ransom for himself and his mistress then departed with all his treasures. Those could have liberated countless others.

Saladin had the Al Aqsah Mosque cleansed and washed out with rose water and then did the same to The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He then returned to its original Orthodox owners. The noble Raymond died of pleurisy soon afterwards and the remaining Roman Catholic population was concentrated in the city of Tyre and sur­rounds. All that remained of The Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Crusades however were far from over and this residual Kingdom persisted for years afterwards. In a later paper I will end the tale telling of the most tragic and the most farcical Crusade and the final battles.


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